Holiday-makers in search of the ultimate winter getaway need look no further than Canada’s capital Ottawa, just a seven-hour flight from the UK. From 29 January until 15 February, 2016, the city will be transformed into a festival of all things snowy and frozen as the 38th edition of Winterlude takes place. Ottawa is expected to welcome some 600,000 revelers over the three-weekend period, with celebrations centered in and around three downtown locations.
Visitors should head to the Crystal Garden, also known as Ottawa’s Confederation Park, for the spectacular opening ceremony on 29 January. This year’s theme is being kept top secret but holiday-makers can expect to enjoy pyrotechnics and live entertainment. The park is also home to a stunning international ice-carving competition over the first two weekends of the festival, as well as a whole host of exhibitions, events and activities, including DJ dance parties.
Ottawa’s iconic Rideau Canal Skateway will play centre stage for several activities sure to thrill kids and parents alike. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Skateway is the world’s largest skating rink (stretching 4.8 miles through downtown Ottawa!) and, besides free ice skating, it hosts the popular Winterlude Triathlon and hilarious annual Accora Village Bed Race with wildly decorated beds and athletes sprinting across the ice. Sports lovers should also be sure to catch the Beaver Cup Pond Hockey Festival, featuring four-on-four ice hockey.
Nearby Jacques-Cartier Park is the site of North America’s biggest snow playground, known at the Snowflake Kingdom. The site is kitted out with larger-than-life snow and ice slides, and is the home-away-from-home of Winterlude’s beloved furry mascots, the Ice Hog family. They love to play and give out hugs, and are happy to pose for pictures, making it a perfect spot for those with little ones in tow.
Entrance to all three sites is free of charge, and thanks to the recent strengthening of the Pound against the Canadian Dollar, there has never been a better time to experience the magic of Winterlude.